Defendants' access to medical treatment in jail not a factor in bail decisions, NH Supreme Court rules
Judges in New Hampshire are not allowed to consider whether denying bail to a defendant with medical conditions jeopardizes their safety while incarcerated, according to an unanimous opinion released Friday by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
The justices rejected an appeal from a defendant held inside Valley Street Jail in Manchester who claimed he was not receiving appropriate medical treatment for “a series of complex medical issues,” and that under the existing bail statute, his safety should be a factor in his release on bail.
The defendant, Daniel Laguerre, is currently detained on domestic violence related charges. He was initially granted bail in August, but allegedly assaulted the same person shortly after his release. Superior Court Judge William Delker denied Laguerre’s bail request, ruling that under current law, judges are not authorized to consider whether the conditions inside a jail endanger that person’s health and welfare.
Attorneys for Laguerre argued that current state law does permit judges to consider a defendant’s safety, whether released into the community or while being held in custody, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed, noting that the Legislature has never added that language into the law.
“Although New Hampshire’s bail statute has been revised many times, it has consistently required courts to consider whether a defendant’s release would endanger the safety of the defendant or the public without mentioning the defendant’s safety while confined,” wrote Associate Justice Patrick Donovan in a seven page opinion.
The court noted that defendants do have other legal options, including the filing of habeas corpus petitions, if they believe their rights are being violated.
Cassie Moran, an attorney for Rath, Young and Pignatelli who argued the case on behalf of Laguerre, said that bail hearings were the fastest way to ensure someone with an immediate health concern was able to secure their release.
“We have to make sure that everyone's rights are being upheld and being honored, especially the most vulnerable among us,” she said.
Currently, judges weigh if a defendant poses a risk of flight, or is a danger to the community or themselves, in determining bail conditions. The court noted that if the Legislature wanted judges to also consider a defendant’s medical condition while incarcerated and access to appropriate health care as a factor for release, elected officials could change the law.